An improvement? Yes.
DISCLAIMER: there shall be no talk of umpires on this post as i'm physically exhausted (my post game nap was lovely) by the whole fiasco. If you are interested in what i have to say on the matter then go follow me on Twitter @therunoutblog1 and see what i have to say on it.
Only a few days ago I said that England were at rock bottom and well i’ll stand by that claim and as the old adage goes when you’ve hit rock bottom the only way is up. Well England definitely improved. For starters that opening session was Indias but not as definitively as in the 2nd game. England batted well in spurts and the partnership between Crawley and Root had echoes of Sibley and Root in the first test except this time the captain was in the back seat.
Kents young star shone brightly today and showed that the best way to survive is to score runs. Off course there were external factors to this, India bowled poorly and the conditions were the easiest to score in but Crawley still looked fairly solid as he climbed into the drives (Mark Butcher would’ve been proud as Creepys heel hit the ground before his toe). A lot was made of Crawleys false shot percentage (20%) but this is a load of nonsense, this is the sort of pitch on which the straight one is the most dangerous-who would’ve guessed- and Crawley did the right thing by setting up on leg stump and letting the ball fizz past if it truly spun. Crawley made a well accomplished 53 and his strength against the pace bowling is encouraging for England heading into the home summer and the away winter.
As for the rest of England's batting well no one got set. Root looked good for 17 but got umpires call, Sibley received a classic openers dismissal, Stokes another on a very tight umpires call, Bairstow was playing for spin when it wasn’t there (very poor dismissal from the Yorkshireman) and Pope got stuck on the crease. As for the rest of the lineup well who can blame Jimmy, Leach, Broad and Archer and Foakes in my eyes did the right thing taking the game into dusk were conditions where harder and also taking some of the momentum out of India and once again showing England it’s not impossible to bat on this surface.
So there is an improvement there and rather ironically Englands batsmen seemed well set to play the spinning ball but it was the one that didn't that unstuck them. Hopefully come the 2nd innings these new found methods shall reap some rewards.
Side note on India their spinners looked a million dollars today. Axar Patel may have the world's worst sunglasses (still sad we may never see if he uses them at night) but he bowled beautifully. No arms balls no nothing just here’s my regulation delivery on the same spot time after time and given the pitch and the ball some may just go straight on. Patel deserved all 6 of his wickets and India have a true gem on their hands. The pacers were poor for India first up leaking some easy runs to Crawley but in the end that didn’t matter as Ashwin closed in on his 400th test wicket and once again showed why he is the greatest spinner of the past decade.
Jimmy and Broady under lights was meant to be England's biggest threat and they were just neither got the wickets. Other days Stokes takes that catch cleanly (he didn’t btw that was not out) or they draw the edge when either opener missed. It is some testament to how well they bowled that Shubman Gill took 36 balls to get off the mark, but when he did it was glorious. England's failure to strike with the new ball meant that Jofra and Leach were coming in against two set batsmen but also two who were looking to score and it showed. Archer dug it in to Rohit and as one would expect with the hitman's otherworldly strike rate of 207 when playing the pull shot he creamed it. His younger more elegant counterpart attempted the same and was caught by Crawley in what was an admittedly very very hard take. Jack Leach's bunny came to the crease and Leach soon had his man pinned plumb in front L to the B to the W. then right at the end Leach had Kohli clean bowled and despite once again looking the best on either side Virat failed to make it count (i’m refraining from joking until the end of the home summer).
The game is currently on a knife edge but i’m dealing with a magnifying glass instead and when i look close enough (as ever) there were some positives to take from today. Crawley looked brilliant and England showed a lot more fight than the last game but most of all this is a truly valuable experience and this England side will have the fightback in them come in the 2nd innings. In particular a ginger number 5 who has a clear chip on his shoulder so let it come as no surprise if he does something special. The game isn't over yet and we know how resilient this side can be so let us wait and see what happens before calling for anyones head.